Especially during difficult times, leaders need support from other leaders.
Each week this past year, I have been hosting virtual one-hour conversations with select groups of school leaders through Principal Matters Masterminds. Together we have studied books, provided times for self-reflection, and allowed leaders to take turns in “hot-seat” opportunities. The result? I have built new friendships and found new ideas for my own leadership practices. Others tell me that they have a newfound inspiration for their own practices. Together we have a shared sense of unity and collaboration in serving others.
Have you ever thought about placing yourself into a setting where others consistently challenge you to grow, encourage you to reach goals, and provide you a confidential setting for feedback and problem solving?
Maybe you are already a part of a professional learning community like this. Or perhaps you are already serving on a team that provides this context. If not, a Mastermind may be a possibility to consider as a way to intentionally commit to this kind of personal and professional development.
Meet Anthony Fisher
Anthony Fisher, M.Ed. is the Principal and Chief Academic Officer of Dayton Business Technology High School, a high school dedicated to helping older secondary students with credit recovery, leadership skills, lifelong learning and community stewardship – all within the context of curriculum focused on the business and technology aspects of careers.
In this week’s conversation, Anthony talks about lessons he has learned in leading a school for challenged youth who require both meaningful relationships and resilience to meet their goals. He also talks about the power of being in a Principal Matters Mastermind – how it has has played a role in his own leadership and expanded his capacity to more effectively serve his school community.
Here are some takeaways from the conversation:
WDP: First, can you tell us more about your school and its mission?
Anthony: We are a credit-recovery program for youth 16-21 years of age. As a community school, in downtown Dayton, our location places our students into a unique surrounding – they see both the benefits and consequences of life right outside the doors of our school. In a partnership with St. Clair Community College, Montgomery County Career Services, and others, our teachers help students discover how to solve problems and tie all content to five pillars: food, shelter, clothing, health and finance. Our goal of the school is equip students with the ability to manage each of these areas of life with knowledge, skill and community partnership. Then learn how to apply these lessons to the business and technologies of whatever careers they are interested in pursuing.
WDP: What prompted you to join a Mastermind?
Anthony: A Mastermind is like a panoramic view to leadership. Think what it is like to march in a parade. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment. Most leaders are marching along in the middle of a “school parade” without really knowing what it looks like from the outside. A Mastermind allows you to identify your work from the outside and find tools for improving your ability on the inside. It is an opportunity to let your hair down, connect with people who are of a like mind, and it gives you a safe place to communicate your concerns. A Mastermind gives you more tools as well as a community of people who care about a focus on learning, celebrating the positive and identifying places where you can improve.
WDP: What lessons from the Mastermind have helped you grow?
Anthony: We have read several books: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, Transforming School Cultures by Anthony Muhammad, and 5-Voices by Jeremy Kubicek. Blink helped me understand hidden biases. 5 Voices helped me better understand my team. Each book has provided new perspective, but Tranforming School Cultures by Anthony Muhammad has really helped. I has literally been like a Bible of information I could take and immediately apply to my school – like having a whole new toolbelt as a leader.
WDP: How has self-reflection helped you each week?
Anthony: Self-reflection keeps you honest! A wise person once told me, ‘Responsibility is simply your ability to respond,’ and each week our Mastermind requires you to respond. Each week you reflect on your connections to students, your healthy choices, your self-growth and your care for loved ones. After several months of this, you begin to change.
WDP: What have been the benefits of ‘hot-seat’ moments?
Anthony: What we talk about is confidential. In a Mastermind, we work with each other, not for each other. As a result, you realize you’re not the only one experiencing a specific hardship. Those moments help us stay relevant. Through qualifying questions and clarifications, you explore language to help you see your team members better. In environments that are highly political and stressful, a Mastermind gives you safe place where you can get real.
WDP: What kind of people woud you encourage to join a Mastermind?
Anthony: Believers are required. In other words, a group of people like this works with individuals who can relate to the experiences of one another, share each other’s experiences, and not judge one another as you strive to become the best administrator while not becoming jaded. It takes you higher. This is not a traditional training because it requires a commitment. You always get more out of it than the hour you put in.
WDP: What story helps you remember why your work matters?
Anthony: Years ago, I told my students ‘You are the future leaders of America whether you want to be or not.’ One of these days, I’m going to be old, and I’ll be at the grocery store and see a student. Will he turn away from me or toward me? How you invest in students, their neighborhood, and their knowledge – this will determine if you have earned their respect. And someday you’re going to be depending on these students to be your future leaders. Will your investment in them make that possible? The future of this country is the youth of this country. That’s why school leadership matters to me.
Let’s Wrap This Up
What ways are you intentionally growing in leadership development? Have you ever considered being a part of a Mastermind? Whether you do that through a long-term commitment like the one Anthony discovered in a Principal Matters Mastermind, or discover a similar experience through another PLN, make it a commitment to keep learning even as you manage the difficulties of school leadership this year. Learn more about openings in Principal Matters Mastermind groups this fall. Or reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Now It’s Your Turn
At the end of this week’s podcast episode, Anthony and I add some bonus minutes talking about serving students during a pandemic. Listen to the entire episode for more takeaways! A big thanks to Mr. Anthony Fisher for sharing his inspiring leadership stories and reminding us that what you do matters! If you’d like to contact Anthony, he can be reached at email@example.com or at his school’s website: https://www.daytontech.org.